Mother Nature finally smiled upon the young anglers of the Student Angler League Tournament Trail last Saturday during the 2018-19 season finale.
After five events were affected by a mix of cold fronts and even tropical systems, awesome conditions greeted the SALTT teams last Saturday morning at the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown.
“We were finally blessed with calm south winds and (temperatures in the) upper 60s with sunshine,” said Rayburn Poston, the SALTT founder and director. “The wind picked up around noon but most teams already had their fish by then and were culling.”
The SALTT features divisions for red drum and largemouth bass with middle and high school anglers competing against each other in six tournaments during each school year.
In the season-finale, the Trail 6 and overall winners were determined for each division.
- Middle School Redfish Division: Cubby Weaver of Georgetown Middle School won with 1 fish at 4.02 pounds, which also won the Big Fish award. St James Middle’s Colin Dunman and Reagan Kidd took second with 1 fish at 2.04 pounds.
- High School Redfish Division: Ashton Rouhselang (Conway Middle School) and Lance Cooper (Conway High School) won with 2 fish at 7.43 pounds. Carolina Forest High School’s Christa Edmonds was second with 2 fish at 7.20 pounds including the Big Fish of 4.14 pounds. Andrew High School’s Dylan Skipper and Walker McKenzie were third with 2 fish at 3.48 pounds.
- Middle School Bass Division: Conway Middle School’s Cody Wilder and Dalton Williams were the winners with 5 fish at 7.76 pounds. Loris Middle School’s Gavin Porter took second with 5 fish at 6.99 pounds. Third place went to Rosemary Middle School’s Gavin Lynch and Maddox Cooper with 1 fish at 3.49 pounds that also took Big Fish.
- High School Bass Division: Andrew Ackerman and Jeremy Owens of Georgetown High School won with 5 fish at 8.69 pounds including the Big Fish at 2.22 pounds. Bomar Oliver of Georgetown High School was second 4 fish at 6.17 pounds followed by Austin Winburn and Chandler Brown of Conway High School in third with 5 fish at 5.94 pounds.
The Trail Champions were determined by the best four weights from the six SALTT events. Points Champions were determined by the highest number of points accumulated from placing in each tourney.
- Trail and Point Champions
- Middle School Redfish Division: Donavan Harris (Conway Middle School ) and Wyatt Moore (Whittemore Park Middle) won both the Trail Championship and Points Championship for the division. “Donavan and Wyatt did not bring a fish in Saturday but had done well enough to still win the trail,” said Poston.
- High School Redfish Division: Rouhselang and Cooper won the Trail Championship while Skipper and McKenzie won the Points Championship for the division. “Ashton and Lance dominated the spring events to come from behind in the last tourney to take the title,” said Poston.
- Middle School Bass Division: Porter won both the Trail Championship and Points Championship for the division. “Gavin fished solo all year and was first or second every tournament,” said Poston.
- High School Bass Division: Winburn and Brown won the Trail Championship while Ackerman and Owens won the Points Championship for the division. “Austin and Chandler had their worst day on Saturday but held the lead to win the trail,” said Poston.
Saturday’s event marked a milestone for Poston’s SALTT, as the fifth season of the tournament trail came to a close.
The trail has become well known as a great learning experience for young anglers, teaching the intricacies of fishing for their favorite species and also respect for the resource with the all-release format.
“When we started SALTT, only Conway and Waccamaw had a fishing club, so it’s been great to see each year that more schools are fishing with us and starting clubs,” said Poston. “It takes a community effort to keep this going from the support of adult fish clubs, schools, partners or sponsors and media outlets.”
During the next SALTT season, the 2019-2020 school year, elementary school students will be able to compete on the trail for the first time.
“We’ve only got 4 seniors so we should not only have a lot of kids returning , but by starting the elementary division, we will grow from within,” said Poston.
For the sixth consecutive year, the Waccamaw Chapter of Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina will stage its annual fundraising banquet at Sunnyside Plantation, a perfect setting under mossy oak trees overlooking Murrells Inlet.
The event, dubbed the chapter’s Celebrating Conservation Banquet and Auction, will be held Saturday evening, from 6-10 p.m.
On a national scale, Coastal Conservation Association was originally established as the Gulf Coast Conservation Association in Texas in 1977 to try to halt commercial netting that was damaging populations of spotted seatrout and red drum.
In 1986, CCA South Carolina became the first state chapter established on the East Coast.
In the past 33 years, CCA SC has been a leader as a watchdog on fisheries laws and issues, and on the water boosting the marine environment in numerous ways.
CCA SC teams with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources on projects that have an impact locally such as the South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement (SCORE) program and the establishment and enhancement of artificial reefs in the Atlantic Ocean.
The SCORE program involves establishing strategic new oyster reefs in estuaries along the S.C. coast, including Murrells Inlet and Winyah Bay.
The banquet begins at 6 p.m. with a social hour during which attendees can enjoy drinks, bid on silent-auction items and enter raffles.
After dinner, the night is capped by a live auction, which will feature various hunting and fishing trips among other items.
Tickets are $75 for individuals, $100 for couples and include a year’s membership to CCA. For more information, contact Chris Hawley at 843-455-0371 or Andy Ricks at 843-250-0841.
Georgetown will be buzzing with an assortment of activity next week when the Bassmaster Elite Series comes to town combining with the Winyah Bay Heritage Festival.
The Elite Series is Bassmaster’s top circuit, and the competition will be fierce on the rivers surrounding Georgetown’s Winyah Bay, from the Ashley and Cooper at Charleston to the Sampit, Black, Pee Dee and Waccamaw feeding into the bay.
Georgetown has hosted a Bassmaster event at the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex annually starting in 2015, including an Elite Series tournament in 2016, and Georgetown County Administrator Sel Hemingway is fired up about this one
“Every time we announce another Bassmaster tournament, people ask me ‘Is this the big one?’ “ said Hemingway. “Now I finally get to tell them again, ‘Yep, this is the big one. This is the one you’ve been waiting for.’ “
Fishing will take place four straight days, next Thursday through Sunday, with the boat launches at 7 a.m. and weigh-ins beginning at 3:15 p.m. each day. The launches and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.
Georgetown and the Carroll Campbell Complex has proven to be a top venue for Bassmaster tournaments. In 2016, the Elite Series drew one of the largest crowds - over 27,000 - in the history of the series.
The Winyah Bay Heritage Festival is a celebration of outdoors-related activities historically available in the Georgetown area, predominantly hunting and fishing.
Attendees can check out a wide range of outdoors-related arts and crafts including hand-carved duck decoys.
The festival, set for April 13-14 at the Campbell Marine Complex, will feature activities for kids, the S.C. Duck Calling Championships, retriever trials and sheep-herding demonstrations.
The Georgetown Business Association is staging its free Bass Weekend Music Series, including concerts by Collin Ray and the Josh Brannon Band on April 12 and Jason Michael Carroll on April 13. The concerts will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at Francis Marion Park, located at the corner of Front and Broad Streets.
For more information, visit www.gtcounty.org or the Georgetown County, S.C. page on Facebook.